Ron Reagan Jr. missed a great opportunity on Tuesday night.
He came to the stage of the Democratic National Convention with the stated agenda of making a plea for the cause of scientific progress. Many of us suspected that his not-so-hidden agenda was simply to use his father’s name to score political points against George W. Bush.
He could have proved us wrong. He could have walked in his father’s footsteps.
Now I don’t presume to know how President Reagan himself would have felt about the very difficult subject of stem cell research. But I do believe that if he had agreed with his son on this topic, he would have been intellectually consistent enough to do more than tell his audience what it wanted to hear. He would have done Democrats a real service by highlighting the contradictory beliefs held within their party.
When it comes to animal research, the Democrats’ big tent is home to some extreme groups who use intimidation–terror, even–to thwart scientists from working toward new life-saving, life-enhancing pharmaceuticals. In recent months, drug companies have witnessed threats to workers’ families, bricks thrown through windows, defamatory graffiti sprayed on walls, and the destruction of property.
Another Leftist attack on science comes in the form of severe regulations or outright prohibition of genetically modified (GM) foods. The developing world can accelerate its progress towards agricultural self-sufficiency if we harness scientific methods of improving crop yields. Yet a coalition of trade protectionists and environmental alarmists has advocated a “precautionary principle,” which forbids the use of GM foods until they can be proven to have no side effects. This prohibition has undermined the industry’s development and continues to exact a human toll in areas where starvation still claims millions of lives.
If the Left really believes in the imperative of scientific progress, how can it confine its advocacy only to testing on human embryos? If you are comfortable destroying early-stage human life for science, how can you rail against tests on lab rats? If tinkering with human genes is ethical, how can it be bad to genetically modify corn?
If Ron Reagan Jr. had asked these simple questions, he would have earned my respect. He would have demonstrated a similarity to his father, who would not pander to an audience when he had the chance to persuade.
Recall that in the early days of Reagan’s political activism he revised his usual after-dinner speech about the threat of neo-fascism. A pastor friend had recommended that Reagan look into another dangerous “ism”: communism. It was a subject Reagan had not thought much about, but in his next speech in front of a citizens’ group in Hollywood, he added a new line at the end: “If I ever find evidence that communism represents a threat to all that we believe in and stand for, I’ll speak out just as harshly against communism as I have fascism.” The stunned silence that greeted Reagan woke him up to the nature of the audience he was speaking to and to the threat that communism was becoming. Needless to say, Reagan did not drop the anti-communist rhetoric from his future speeches.
Nearly 40 years later, President Reagan gave his famous speech at the Berlin Wall. Other leaders would have delivered a very different message. After all, Gorbachev had enacted some freedom-oriented reforms in the USSR, and he may have expected some praise from Reagan for these compromises in his direction. But Reagan was a passionate advocate of freedom and he could not countenance intellectual inconsistency. So he pointed at the most obvious contradiction that remained: “There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.” That sign was to tear down that wall.
Obviously, no one expected such drama from Ron Jr.’s speech. But he could have shown a more sincere interest in its subject: how we ought to remove obstacles that are slowing down the progress of science.
By failing to acknowledge the anti-science biases of factions of his Boston audience, Ron Jr. only validated that his true interest was far narrower. He wanted to please his friends in the Democratic Party, who in turn wanted to use him to embarrass President Bush, without the discomfort of analyzing the contradictions of their own positions.
That’s something President Ronald Reagan would not have done.
Brad Lips is the Chief Operating Officer of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and a coauthor of a forthcoming book by the Goldwater Institute, The Reagan Vision: How You Can Revive the Reagan Revolution.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Andrew Stiles